16 Aug 2007

Fiji seeks support to overturn Australia's kava ban

7:26 am on 16 August 2007

Fiji is calling on other Pacific countries to back its bid to take Australia to the World Trade Organisation over its ban on kava.

Australia moved to tighten import restrictions on kava in June citing kava abuse and associated health problems in Aboriginal communities.

The ban of the traditional beverage applies to kava in its traditional powder form.

Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo, who is the chairman of Fiji's Kava Association and member of the International Kava Executive Council, says the ban is unfair and illegal.

"The ban in Australia is closer to home and we believe this has been discriminatory and not only that, under WTO convention, it is an illegal decision."

Ratu Josateki Nawalowalo says kava is a safe and valuable commodity and many people who drink it socially suffer no ill-effects.

He says lifting the ban is a political matter that will be tabled at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tonga in October .